Corn lily (Veratrum californicum) is commonly called false hellebore, but it is not a true hellebore (genus Helleborus, a member of the Buttercup Family). Corn lily belongs to the Lily Family. California corn lily and California false hellebore are other colloquial names for V. californicum.
A native perennial, corn lily is found in wet mountain meadows and along streams at 3,500 to 11,000 elevation. It often forms dense stands. The corn lily’s range is confined to the western states.
Arising from a dark, thick rhizome, corn lily grows from 3 to 7 feet in height. The erect, unbranched, leafy stem resembles a cornstalk.
The bright green corn lily leaves can be up to a foot long. Elliptical in shape, the leaves have heavy parallel veins and a pointed tip. They are alternate and sessile (no stalk).
The corn lily inflorescence is a dense panicle. The flowers have 6 white or greenish tepals (a structure not clearly a sepal or petal), 6 stamens and a 3-branched pistil. The tepals have green markings at the base making the flower appear as though it has a green center.
The genus name, Verarum, is from the Latin – “vera” is true and “atrum” is black – and probably refers to the dark-colored rhizomes. The species name means “from California”.
These corn lily plants were growing in the Lower Kings Creek Falls Meadow in Lassen Volcanic National Park (Lassen County CA) and photographed in August.
In my next post will discuss the fruits/seeds and medicinal properties of corn lily.